Monday, June 28, 2010

How To Help a Wandering Sheep - Galatians 1:6

"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting
Him who called you by the grace of Christ,
for a different gospel..."
(Galatians 1:6)

Do you have friends or family that are wandering outside the safety of green pastures and grazing in the desert lands? Maybe you yourself are tempted to stray outside of the guardrails of grace and to roam in the realm of the rebel. Either way, Paul has a message for us this morning from Galatians. It is a message I needed to hear this day. It is a word regarding how we need to react to struggling sinners and wandering sheep.

Let's quickly review what has gone on thus far in Galatians. From the start, Paul has pointed us to the peace that is ours from the grace that is Christ's. "Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ."

He has proclaimed to us both the beauty and the simplicity of the gospel which is: "Christ gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age."

Truly it is good news. Truly it is the greatest news which alone answers our greatest need. How I pray that this gospel grace which Paul proclaims is known by you, dear friend!

Sadly, in spite of the greatness of this good news, we are offering foolish sheep who wander out of the safety and plentiful provision of our gentle Shepherd's grand green pastures. You know, sin remains in us though it no longer reigns in us and far too often our sinful lusts fight to overthrow our sanctification and seek to pull us back down into the miry pit. Just take a glance at Romans 7 and see if the battle described there is not at times your own.

As Robert Robinson penned in his classic hymn:
"O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be; let that grace now like a fetter, bind my wand'ring heart to Thee. Prone to wander - Lord, I feel it - prone to leave the God I love: here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above."

The apostle Paul knows this foolish tendency that is in all of us to go A.W.O.L. from the gospel of grace. He knows that we are prone to wander back into the world of works and in a shepherdly way he is about to go and gather the straying sheep he loves so dearly and bring them back to mercy's meadows.

In the opening words of Galatians 1 verse 6 Paul fleshes out his later admonition from Galatians 6 verse 1:

"Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass,
you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness...."

Let's face it - Paul is staring at stupidity.

He is dealing with dumb.

He is facing foolishness.

His hearers are wanting to wander away from the glorious gospel of grace and are considering returning to the yoke of self-sufficient slavery. Sadly, my flesh would probably want to tell these deserters, "Dude! What in the WORLD are you doing?!?!" I'd be angry at their arrogance. I'd be ashamed at their audacity. "What are you thinking abandoning the grace of Christ for a different gospel?!"

That's me.
Thankfully that's not Paul and we all should take notes from this preacher's patience.
Got your pencil ready? You may want to take notes!

Paul is neither angry nor ashamed - at least not of the sheep. The words he chooses instead are "I am amazed."

He's amazed - as we all should be!
Paul is not seeking to destroy these roaming rebels.
He doesn't want to dog them he wants to deliver them.
He is seeking to save them from themselves and therefore he is restoring such a one in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1).

Have you ever wandered? I surely have. I am far too quick to bail.

In my wanderings I have found folks angry at me and ashamed by me. That's not been very helpful in bringing me back.

However, in my floundering I have also had brothers and sisters who have come to me as Paul has come to the Galatians, with humble amazement accompanied by gracious grieving and tangible help.

This morning I want to go no further with the message of Galatians 1:6 other than to challenge us with this...

How are we responding to deserters?
Are we ticked?
Are we flustered?
Are we seeking to micro-manage their meandering?
Are we angry, ashamed, or... "amazed"?

Let us learn from Paul.Let us be amazed at our fellow flock-mates quick parting and let us be amazed at the tendency of our own hearts to do the very same. Further let us pray for grace to restore wandering sheep in a spirit of true gentleness always pointing them back to the gospel of grace which is the only true gospel.

If we don't want to deal with deserters in gospel grace then perhaps we don't really understand gospel grace. In that case, maybe we ourselves are the ones most in need of it and perhaps we are the straying sheep who could best benefit from the gentle Shepherd's staff!

An amazed wanderer who is regularly being restored,

I Was A Wandering Sheep

I was a wandering sheep, I did not love the fold;
I did not love my Shepherd's voice, I would not be controlled.
I was a wayward child, I did not love my home;
I did not love my Father's voice, I loved afar to roam.

The Shepherd sought His sheep, the Father sought His child;
they followed me o'er vale and hill, o'er deserts waste and wild: t
hey found me nigh to death, famished and faint and lone;
they bound me with the bands of love, they saved the wand'ring one.

Jesus my Shepherd is; 'twas He that loved my soul,
'twas He that washed me in His blood, 'twas He that made me whole;
'twas He that sought the lost, that found the wand'ring sheep, '
twas He that brought me to the fold, 'tis He that still doth keep.

I was a wand'ring sheep, I would not be controlled;
but now I love my Shepherd's voice, I love, I love the fold.
I was a wayward child, I once preferred to roam;
but now I love my Father's voice, I love, I love His home.

(Horatius Bonar, 1843)

No comments:

Post a Comment